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Customer reviews

3.5 out of 5 stars
Busted Flush (Wild Cards Novel)
Format: Hardcover|Change
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on 26 October 2011
First of all, despite my qualms, I'm more than happy to see a renewed strong showing for the Wild Cards book series. This new trilogy is just what I expect from competent genre fiction - page-turners with plenty of action. To an extent I can overlook characters of restricted depth.

Sadly for latecomers it looks like Inside Straight, the first of this new Wild Cards sequence, is already close to out of print.

That being said, I think you can pick up what's going on in Busted Flush without reading the previous book. The new-minted characters for this sequence are largely graduates of a superhero reality show, so basic character and relationship lines were drawn there and powers aren't necessarily re-explained in depth. Judging by the filling in for characters established in earlier Wild Card runs, some of which I only vaguely remember, there's enough information to work with.

There's a deliberate attempt to adult-orient the stories by putting the series at the front-line of contemporary global issues. In the first book the heroes who failed out of the reality show end up re-fighthing the gulf war. This volume revisits hurricane Katrina, the way the US treats "prisoners of war", and the situation in a non-specific Africa-zania.

There are, inevitably, tropes and cliches at work. In the tradition of none-more-literary sources than what I remember of X-Men comics, there's a wild card/mutant being held in a secret facility set up to hold people with powers and exploit them for military gain. The difference is that the power is driven by sexual activity. In fact, across the books there is more (fairly badly written) sex that you might expect from a superhero franchise, but that's a flaw that runs back through all the Wild Card series. Bolting on sex has been the basic knee-jerk method comics writers have used to slap a "look it's not for kids!" label on the content, so there is an hnourable tradition at work there. Keeping a little more up to date, there is a rash of lesbian characters, apparently now obligatory in prose genre fantasy. Gay men, however, are under-served.

The harshest criticism is for the pretty naked xenophobia on display. The series has ostensibly gone equual-opportunity globe-trotting but it's less-than-amazing that the darker characters are almost all non-American foreigners. English readers will almost certainly wince if not atively grind teeth because one of the characters who supports a major plot arc is notionally "British", as are his/her supporting characters. As written by an American the characterisation is a depressing litany of all the stock faults attached to the English - cold and unemotional, sexually ambivalent (it seems male homosexuality is still more a uncomfortable concept than its lipstick cousin), and cursed with bad teeth. There are gaping holes in understanding domestic English culture - such as what pubs are and when they open - and the attempts to write local dialogue falls under the inevitable curse of Van Dyke.

If you can forgive that and the sub-Buffy (or any current "teen" show written and performed by the proto- or actually middle aged) interpersonal relationships it's a reasobnably fast-paced, fun read.
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on 24 July 2013
This book really suffers from one big problem it's the middle book in a trilogy and as such has the burden of carrying the story on but not really leading it anywhere of interest.

Now there are some good plot points, the return of the Radical, now as mad as a sack of badgers and at the head of an African liberation army is a promising thread and is the strongest of the book, the theme of what happens when the worlds most powerful ace flips is a good one, also the plot surrounding Niobe (a living baby farm) and Drake (the little fat boy, literally) is also good and really the main meat in the story, other plot threads try to get interesting but mostly add very little (also the Curve ball/Fortune/Drummer Boy love triangle is just so dull) such as zombies, a hurricane, a war for oil, some lesbianism for cheep titillation and some out of date British stereotypes (we are all Cecil Rhodes with bad teeth, apparently.)

so overall not bad, it does feel like a middle volume but the ending does set it up nicely for the next book.
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on 31 July 2010
if anything quite confusing and definitely not one to start with for either previous Wild Card readers or new. The new cast continues to expand and develop and requires the background knowledge of the first to really appreciate and whilst not directly based on the first book it references events that would leave a new reader with gaps of plot knowledge.

The story itself builds on the first and is primarily concerned with the UN team set up by the aces from the American Hero show at the end of book one. It has at least four strands that as always eventually come together at the end, but for me were just not woven as well or intricately as other books have been.

Most of the time I felt like I was reading a specific strand that just kept being interrupted by the others. Losing one may have helped, especially as the main thread running through the whole book is related to a double agent ace who has three persona.

Despite the complexity and confusion I still enjoyed the book for its Wild Card setting. It is so uniquely designed, with such great care and detail and back history that just being part of the expanding universe is worth reading it for.

It is a middle book and this shows in the non-ending. The book obviously ends and ties up the strands within it, but answers very little of the trilogy and points towards the third book for these. I would hope that what happens to Bubbles would also be resolved one way or the other.

I am waiting for the paperback of Suicide Kings in December and look forward to reading it and the completion of the trilogy just in time for the Fort Freak release in Spring 2011.

If you have read Inside Straight and for some reason have not carried on, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, just bear in mind it will likely be more enjoyable and clearer after reading Suicide Kings on a second read around.
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on 17 February 2010
The new trilogy of Wild Cards books continues and by and large this has revived this line of 'mosaic' books. Like most of the previous volumes different writers produce different sections which are overseen and then stiched together by George RR Martin.

In general an easy if perhaps a little uninvolving read. Maybe it suffers from being the middle book of a trilogy?

My main problem with the novel comoes down to what might be considered the central strand of the novel - that of Noel Matthews, the British Ace and secret service double agent written by Melinda Snodgrass. The sections set in the UK or featuring British characters is full of English sterotypes, even down to the old one about British teeth. Maybe you can forgive having a British character referring to a rubbish bin as a trash can or to a Wal-Mart store in England instead of ASDA (which is how everyone knows that chain), but the sterotyping comes across either as a failed joke or simply a writer who doesn't care enough to do basic fact checking.

If you can get past that the actual story is quite good. Perhaps its a little more disjointed than usual with ongoing storylines spread right around the planet, but again, this might be middle-book syndrome. Still, its a good entry in the long running series and I am looking forward to finding out how this trilogy ends.
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on 17 October 2014
A collection of individual stories that link together to form a greater whole. which is. enjoyable exciting and holds the readers attention throughout.
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on 12 January 2016
Brilliant love all wild card book's
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on 5 May 2015
Ongoing. Fort Freak trongest of current quintet.
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on 1 February 2009
I've read all of the Wild Cards books and enjoyed them up until now. Now and again they have trespassed outside their self-defined remit deriving from the original premise of the virus and its effects and the human or super human stories that emerge from that premise. 'Trespass' meaning trying, by one or two of the mosaic authors, to get a message across relevant to world events that resemble those in our version of reality. This never works; it didn't work in the earlier novels and certainly doesn't in this one. Mixing the power fantasy abilities of superheroes with the political realities of our wretched world is like trying to mix oil and water. It didn't work in those comics that had Captain America, etc fighting against Hitler in WW2 because if all our power fantasies were allowed to conclude in a satisfactory fashion our superhero would entirely wipe the floor with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and all the other demons that have inhabited our reality. This self evidently did not happen and so we have an uncomfortable and painful clash between our fantasy world and reality; psychiatrists may say in this we have taken the first steps on the path to psychosis! In 'Busted Flush' our heroes face some of the same problems our soldiers are facing in Iraq and Afghanistan: killing women and children not because this is the aim of the mission but because they quite understandably hate Western armies invading their countries and fight back; killing thousands in Africa as 'collateral damage' to the use of super powers and modern military technology. Religion seems to be left in the background (probably the best place for it). In the African segments there is a nod to the growing influence of China in that continent and generally the observant reader could pick out all sorts of references to the current woes and worries of our world. All of this may help writers trying to make their superheroes relevant to us, fix them in a context we can understand but the efforts these writers make are doomed to fail because superheroes DO NOT EXIST! Much as we would like them to be there, Batman to rescue us from criminals, Superman to smash super villains, we have to face the harsh reality that there are no daddy or mummy figures to save us whimpering children from evil or violent threats.
In this second book in a trilogy (perhaps suffering from the same weakness found in all second books of trilogies)the writers try very hard to humanise these superheroes, making them cry, have sex, urinate, spit, swear profusely, sweat and cringe in fear and in so doing bring them dangerously close to our own pathetic state. These all too human behaviours and secretions in superhumans lowers our necessary suspension of disbelief in their powers. Compared with earlier novels in the series, where the contexts were often as weird and fantastic as the characters and all the better for it, the superheroes in this book seemed flimsy and pale, lacking in conviction. The aces of yore were solid personalities whereas these new ones seemed collections of stereotypes gathered from the comics coupled with whimsical and strained novelties that no-one could imagine as living,breathing beings however many human frailties are assigned to them to gain verisimilitude. The left-over characters from the older books are treated in a casual manner, manipulated and diminished to make the newer ones seem stronger. Exaggerating this effect is the writing, which is sparse and dialogue-driven, leaving the reader's mind scrabbling to construct the world the aces move in; it leaves the story dry and unsatisfactory. Too many recent books are like this; dialogue, especially written in short, snappy, jokey-smart style, is easier to write quickly than well-thought out construction of the ace's world. Editors and the people who run writer's classes always urge the would-be writer to 'cut to the chase' and drive the story forward, not bog the reader down in background. Inevitably, this results in facile, shallow, easily forgotten tales and sadly this is the description I would apply to 'Busted Flush'.
Another characteristic of at least one of the writers is the reiteration of racial stereotypes attributed by ignorant Americans to the British. I am not quite sure if this practice is meant to be 'nudge-nudge; wink, wink, I don't really mean this' but to a British reader it is very offensive. I read wearily that we are supposed to be dentally impaired (mentioned at least three times), eat blood-pudding, drink warm beer, have drawling accents which annoy and irritate the whole world (mentioned more than once), would be likely to send our SAS and other soldiers to help oppress and colonially ravage and that we are hated by the whole world. Where does all this come from? OK, I know the British Empire of the ace world doesn't exist in ours anymore but it was the hate in the author that radiates from the page which made me feel like writing this review. Perhaps some dentally obsessed Americans are trying to wriggle out from under the blame for who began the Iraq war and shift some hate onto the British, their poor, bedraggled poodle.
See what I mean about trying to mix superheroes and our cold, miserable reality?
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